Thank you everybody for your very helpful suggestions. It is good of you to share your experience.
I have had serious but unrelated system problems, but eventually found that disabling hardware acceleration did indeed allow me to use paint.net's Select/Copy without causing system restart.
Regrettably installing the latest driver for my graphics card did not allow me to re-enable hardware acceleration without reintroducing the problem, however I am happy to have a working programme. For the record my graphics card is a PNY NVIDIA Quadro P1000, 4x mDP1.4.